Anomalisa has been on my watch-list for about half a year. It featured on many critics best of 2015 lists and one of my fellow students has been raving about it seemingly forever. Today, it opened, so I went to the very first screening at 9:15. The things I do for cinema…
Anomalisa stars David Thewlis, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Tom Noonan (yes, only three actors) and is directed by Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson. The film follows Michael (Thewlis) who on a business trip to Cincinnati meets Lisa (Leigh) who he becomes enraptured with.
Charlie Kaufman is well known in the film industry. He’s the writer and director of films like Adaptation, Being John Malkovich and Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind. Anomalisa fits perfectly into the quirkiness and the engaging script of the other three films. It doesn’t have the cutting wit of a Tarantino or a Sorkin, but that is actually something in its favour. It’s more nuanced and believable and the dialogue between Michael and Lisa feels like we are peeking into a real life conversation. The film is full with dark humour, luckily none of which was spoiled in the trailer. I was almost in tears at some of the jokes, especially a extended computer segment at the hotel between Michael and a concierge, or an encounter with a golf buggy being driven through the hotel. Thewlis also has a speech during the final third that will become a defining moment of cult cinema, much like Sam Jackson’s “Ezekiel” or anything by Morgan Freeman.
The film is stop-motion, with the models being created by 3D printers. It took over two years to create and it looks stunning. There are moments when I stopped seeing puppets and began to see them as actors. That might be down to Thewlis and Leigh, who do a fantastic job at voicing the characters. Leigh especially, coming off the back of The Hateful Eight, Anomalisa is a complete change of character and shows her range as an actress. There is a third act reveal that uses the puppetry to great effect. I’m trying not to spoil it here, but it will go down as one of the greatest mind trips in the history of surrealist cinema. I’ve done some stop-motion before and I know how taxing it is, but Kaufman and Johnson have transcended a lot of what has come previously.
The BBFC gave Anomalisa a 15 certificate and it earns it well. Strong language is throughout as well as a fully animated sex scene. It’s not over-sexualised but is still a bit out-there in terms of weirdness. I guess it’s the fact that it’s stop-motion, it makes it seem very awkward but in a good way. It reminds me of a similar scene in The Spectacular Now, which is my favourite love scene due to its realism.
I don’t want to spoil the film, as it’s one of those rare ones that works wonders if you know nothing about it, but you have to be prepared for some out-there scenes. I already talked a little bit about the surrealist scene, but there some moments which will throw certain audience members. A lot of the oddness comes from the third member of the cast, Tom Noonan, who plays every other character, be it male or female, young and old. All of Noonan’s characters have the same face, which is a nice visualisation of Michael knowing there is something special about Lisa. It takes a while to realise what the film is doing with Noonan’s characters and it’s a bit strange to see female characters talking in a deep bass voice (which then is the same voice for their child). But it all adds to the feeling of there being something not right underneath the surface of Anomalisa.
I came out of Anomalisa feeling so many different emotions. It’s changed my perspective on certain things, it’s something that hits on a very deep level. If you watch Anomalisa, you’ll laugh, you might cry and you’ll have watched one of the greatest films of the 2010s.
Score: 10/10 Just go watch it. There is no equivalent. This is perfection.